Theosophical Encyclopedia

Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 1 (2020 version)

THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETIES

By Dr. James Santucci

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

California State University

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868

Theosophy 420 b

Adyar, part of Headquarters Building. Photo: © Richard Dvořák   

[Versions of this article have been published in Syzygy, vol. 6, no. 1–2 (Winter-Fall 1997): 221–45; The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions, edited by James R. Lewis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998) [and second edition, 2002], 388–89 [2nd ed.: 573] (“Point Loma Publications”), 476 [2nd ed.: 722–723] (“Temple of the People”), 480–83 [2nd ed.: 727–730] (“Theosophical Movement”), 483–87 [2nd ed.: 730–734] (“Theosophical Society”), 503–505 [2nd ed.: 760–762] (“United Lodge of Theosophists”), and 527–28 [2nd ed.: 802–803 (“The Word Foundation”), and in Odd Gods, edited by James R. Lewis (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001), 270–289.

This text was updated in 2013 through the efforts of Janet Kerschner (the Archivist at the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library, The Theosophical Society in America, Wheaton, Illinois), S. Ramu (General Manager, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar), Kenneth Small (Point Loma Publications), Herman C. Vermeulen (The Theosophical Society, Point Loma, The Hague, The Netherlands), Jan Nicolaas Kind (Theosophy Forward).  The 2013 edition was edited for Web publication by the late John Algeo, former President of the Theosophical Society in America and Vice President of the International Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai, India.  The presentation has been further updated in 2020.]

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THEOSOPHY

The modern Theosophical Movement is represented today in the U.S. primarily through seven organizations: the Theosophical Society, headquartered in Adyar, Chennai, India; the Theosophical Society, headquartered in Pasadena, California (U.S.A.); the United Lodge of Theosophists, formed in Los Angeles, California; the Temple of the People, with headquarters at Halcyon, near Pismo Beach, California; the Word Foundation of Dallas, Texas; and Point Loma Publications (now renamed as the Point Loma School of Theosophic Perennialism) in San Diego, California, and The Theosophical Society: Point Loma. Of these groups, the Adyar T.S. is considered by most Theosophists and scholars to be the parent organization. All claim to disseminate Theosophical teachings, “Theosophy” referring to a term popularized and defined by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891) to denote the Wisdom of the Ages, embodying “higher esoteric knowledge”—hence, a “Secret Doctrine”—partially recoverable in imperfect and incomplete form in those portions of the scriptures of the world’s great religions that express mystical teachings and in those philosophies that display a monistic or pantheistic bent. 

Read more: Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 1 (2020 version)

Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 2 (2020 version)

THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETIES

By Dr. James Santucci

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

California State University

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868

Theosophy 420 i HQ Building wide angke

Adyar, the front of Headdquarters Building. photo taken with a wide angle lens

Theosophy 420 j HPB Sarony portrait 1877

HPB, photo taken in 1877

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Inn 1898, Mrs. Tingley renamed the T. S. in America the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society,[1] and as its “Leader and Official Head” she pursued her activities in applied Theosophy, including an ambitious educational program, called Raja Yoga, that was initiated in 1900, and which emphasized an integration of physical, mental, spiritual training, and education. From the earliest student population of five, the number quickly jumped to 100 by 1902, two-thirds of whom were Cuban, owing to her abiding interest in Cuba arising from the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the support by Mayor Bacardí of Santiago of Mrs. Tingley’s objectives. In 1919 the educational program was expanded with the establishment of the Theosophical University. With the closing of the lodges in 1903, most of the committed and talented members were now at Point Loma engaging not only in this formal educational experiment but also in related activities such as agriculture and horticulture, writing, researching, publishing, dramatic, and musical productions.

Read more: Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 2 (2020 version)

Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 3 (2020 version)

THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETIES

By Dr. James Santucci

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

California State University

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868

HQ Building

Another look at Headquarters Building in Adyar

HPB 2

Well-known classic H.P.B. photo

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BELIEFS/PRACTICES 

Theosophy 420 s SD

The teachings promulgated by the Theosophical societies are ultimately those that have secured the attention of its members as well as what individuals understand Theosophy to be. As a rule, most Theosophists associate the basic teachings with the “three fundamental propositions” contained in the Proem of H.P. Blavatsky’s magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine. An overview of the development of Blavatsky’s and other Theosophists’ understanding of Theosophy reveal a variety of interpretations. In fact, the term ‘theosophy’, chosen to represent the aspirations and objects of the Society, had little to do with its later development. Theosophy was accepted as the name of the Society in accordance with the definition found in the American edition of Webster’s unabridged dictionary (published ca. 1875),[1] which is as follows:

supposed intercourse with God and superior spirits, and consequent attainment of superhuman knowledge by physical processes as by the theurgic operations of ancient Platonists, or by the chemical processes of the German fire philosophers.

The term, however, was not unknown prior to this period (September, 1875). Blavatsky employed the term in February 1875 in a letter to Professor Hiram Corson (“theosophy taught by the Angels”) and in her “A Few Questions to ‘Hiraf’” (“Theosophic Seminary”).

Read more: Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 3 (2020 version)

Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 4 (2020 version)

 THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETIES

By Dr. James Santucci

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

California State University

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868

Theosophy 420 z 1 elephants at the headquarters building

Eight elephant heads, Headquarters Building, Adyar

Theosophy 420 z 2 Blavatsky 1875 1050x700

Famous H.P.B. photo taken in 1875

The United Lodge of Theosophists is “a voluntary association of students of Theosophy” founded in 1909 by Robert Crosbie and others, having as its main purpose the study of Theosophy using the writings of Blavatsky and Judge as their guide. Because personality or ego is considered to have negative effects, “associates” pursue anonymity in their Theosophical work. Regarding this work, the U.L.T. Declaration, the only document that unites associates, states that its purpose “is the dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the philosophy of Theosophy and the exemplification in practice of those principles, through a truer realization of the SELF; a profounder conviction of Universal Brotherhood.” It regards as Theosophists all “who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, condition or organization.”

Read more: Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 4 (2020 version)

Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 5 (2020 version)

THEOSOPHY AND THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETIES

By Dr. James Santucci

Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies

California State University

Fullerton, CA 92834-6868

Theosophy 420 z 9 HQ PART 5 TTS

Yet another look at Headquarters Building, with the well-known River Bungalow visible on the right.

Photo: © Richard Dvořák   

Theosophy 420 z 10 HPB 5

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PUBLICATIONS and EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH 

The first magazine of the Theosophical Society, The Theosophist, was initiated with the October 1879 issue in Bombay under the editorship of H.P. Blavatsky. The periodical, published at the international headquarters in Adyar, Chennai, continues to this day and is the official organ of the international President of the T.S. (Adyar).

Read more: Theosophy and the Theosophical Societies - part 5 (2020 version)

Shinto

TE Shinto 320 2

The word “Shintō” is a Japanese pronunciation of Chinese shen dao (the way of the shen or ancestral spirits); in Japanese it is usually taken to mean “the way of the gods.” The Japanese name is kami no michi, “the way of the kami,” which distinguishes it from the island nation’s other major faith, Buddhism. Shint¯ in Japan is the worship of Kami (sing. and pl.), deities whose lineage goes back to prehistoric times when they were patrons of places, communities and above all of the clans (uji) that were the major units of early Japanese society. Myths of these deities are preserved in two of Japan’s oldest books, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things, 712 CE) and the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan, 720 CE). They tell of the descent from heaven of the Japanese primal parents, Izanagi and Izanami, of their generation of the islands and gods of Japan, of various vicissitudes of the gods in the Kamiyo or “Divine Age” of a divine council convening in the River of Heaven, and finally of the descent of the ancestors of the imperial house from heaven to earth.

Read more: Shinto

Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) - Mary Anderson

TE MA 2

 Entrace of the Arcives at sunset © Marja Artamaa

Note from the editor # 1 : Mary Anderson (1 November 1929 – 14 April 2020) was an outstanding Theosophist and held various positions in the TS-Adyar. She traveled extensively through many parts of the world, lecturing or conducting courses. Mary was the embodiment of dedication, humbleness, kindness and above all Love.

Read more: Historical Photos from the Surendra Narayan Archives (Adyar Archives) - Mary Anderson

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